am I not getting hired because I’m gay?

A reader writes:

I’m a 22-year-old gay male and I recently relocated to a bigger city from a small town in hopes of finding gainful employment but so far it has not worked out. I’ve turned in over 80 applications to businesses all over the city and have had maybe 6 interviews with no luck. I know I should not be so judgmental of employers but I can’t help but think that in most cases I’m not being considered because of sexual orientation.

For the most part the interviews go really well and some go so far as to say they will contact me in the following days for a second interview but never do. Am I crazy to think like this? I’m under this self-impression that no matter how experienced, educated, articulate a gay applicant may be, when put neck and neck with a lesser or equal straight applicant then the interviewer’s more inclined to choose the “norm.”

Help me out with this please. It’s making me depressed and paranoid that I’ll never succeed because of who I am.

Ugh, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. The good news — if you can call depressing job market news “good” — is that your situation sounds exactly the same as most job-seekers’ situation right now. In fact, possibly a little bit better, because getting six interviews from 80 applications is a pretty good success rate, believe it or not.

And that whole “we’ll contact you soon” followed by never hearing from them again? Frustratingly common as well.

The fact is, the job market sucks right now. It’s sucked for a while. And while a lot of people think it’s starting to improve, that improvement is happening very slowly, and so people are still continuing to have lots of trouble getting a job. There are still five times as many job-seekers as there are job openings. That’s really bad math.

And in your case, you’re also 22, which means that you probably don’t have a ton of work experience yet and you’re up against applicants with more years in the workforce, which puts you at an additional disadvantage.

Now, am I going to promise you that no one is discriminating against you because you’re gay? No. Of course it could happen, because there will always be jerks. But the vast majority of interviewers are not jerks and won’t care. (Will they even know, for that matter? Either way, most won’t care, especially in a bigger city.) And so far, your experience sounds just like the experience that most people are having in this job market, so unless you have specific reason to think there’s homophobia at work here, I’d assume what you’re seeing is just the same old bad job market facing everyone.

For what it’s worth, I’ve noticed a lot of people assuming that their lack of offers must be evidence that something nefarious is going on. And I’m not saying that’s never the case, because sometimes it is … but I would caution people not to leap to that conclusion unless they see specific evidence of it, beyond just this crappy job market.

Hang in there, read and practice the hell out of the ridiculous quantity of advice on interviewing that you can find in the archives here, and good luck!

{ 52 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous

    Ask A Manager, you always give some great responses.

    (One thing: I read the email as saying he moved from a small town, not to a small town.)

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  3. Hannah

    I doubt the OP is listing his sexual orientation on his resume, which means the huge majority of jobs were uninterested for reasons having nothing to do with his being gay. As for the jobs where he interviewed, considering most interviewers avoid personal questions and pretty much everyone wears a standard suit to an interview, he is assuming both that the employers have prejudices to begin with, but also that they have pretty good gaydar.

    I know I am very privileged to live in a more liberal city than most, but I think the OP could give both himself and the interviewers a little more credit. If you’re the right person for the job, your qualifications will be much more important to any sane employer than your personal life. Good luck.

  4. Erin

    How do these employers know that he’s gay? I mean, is he telling them he’s gay? If so, why? Is he acting so stereotypically gay that they can’t help but notice (I’m thinking like Nathan Lane’s character in The Birdcage). I mean, barring the two above scenarios, how would they even know? I work with tons of gay people who aren’t obviously gay just by looking at them or by having a professional conversation with them.

  5. Rachel

    Erin – some people have much stronger gaydar than you apparently have.

    To the OP: What AAM said is right. I wouldn’t worry about being gay. It may work to your advantage. There are plenty of women who want a “fun gay friend” in the workplace.

  6. bob

    I’ll generally echo what the folks have said, unless you walk and say “hi I’m gay” they don’t really care either way. The job market, especially IT, is absolutely horrific right now and it’s the worst I’ve seen it since I was laid off in May of 2009.

  7. Anonymous

    Gaydar – pfft! I’ve met people with “gaydar” who were sure I was a gay guy. I’m a happily married woman who, alas, lacks any semblance of an hourglass figure. People who go around guessing at targets for their homophobia need to get a life! Really, most people don’t care. A good attitude is what counts.

  8. Nathan

    I wrote this email. While I’m not the stereotypical gay by any means, and not really all that feminine truly, I’ve never been good at hiding it. I think being well groomed and more personable then the average guy is probably my tell. To be gay in Iowa is to understand what I’m going through. There’s still a lot of hate out here. But this has eased my mind I understand about the job market being so terrible.
    Thanks!

    Here’s a picture of me if you want to judge for yourself :)

    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?profile=1&id=1136340009#!/photo.php?fbid=1469866623424&set=a.1547517764654.75413.1136340009&theater

    1. Laura

      I went to college in rural Iowa and although I’m a straight female, I know what you’re saying about the hate. Iowa is by no means homogeneous and there are many areas where people are more tolerant and accepting (which is why Iowa is generally a swing state and not a solidly red one), there is also a lot of prejudice against people who are different. I’m sure that’s even more obvious to someone who grew up there than it was to me as a college student.

      Honestly, there might be some homophobia going on there, but the overall economic environment is probably the larger factor here. There are plenty of straight people who are unemployed as well and it hasn’t been easy for us either!

      Also, the link to your photo didn’t work, btw.

      1. Charles

        “which is why Iowa is generally a swing state and not a solidly red one

        Yea, that’s right, those “red-staters’ are all bigots!

        Sorry, but YOUR own bias is showing.

        I run into more bias from those on the left than those on the right.

      2. Anonymous

        Here we go….

        Let the political battle begin! AAM, I hope you squash this one before it escalates, no matter where on the political spectrum you fall on.

    2. Erin

      You don’t look obviously gay to me (based on the myspace page photo), but perhaps it’s because I work in the SF Bay Area where you’d look more like a hipster than an obviously gay person.

      On that note, perhaps the issue is less about being or seeming gay, and more about being or seeming “different.”

  9. Anonymous

    Yeah, it must be that you are gay. I mean it is not like the unemployment rate is over 9% nationally. And of course you must be the most qualified.

    No. Actually, from reading your question and your response, I would say it may be your attitude. Really, everyone hates you is a bit much. Subtle things you say; that you are groomed better than others and a more qualified candidate, those things would put me off of you way before the insidious fear that I might catch being gay from you.

      1. Anonymous

        AAM,
        I am the Anonymous from this am, I tried to post this from my smart phone but it was not smart enough.

        Here is my issue with Nathan’s posts: he says he should not be judgmental but then makes a major judgment that the only reason he was not hired for any of these six jobs was because he is gay. Not, it is a tough job market and even though I am good, they may have decided to go a different route. Never does he concede that he may not be the best fit for the job but rather goes so far as to write “when put neck and neck with a lesser or equal straight applicant then the interviewer’s more inclined to choose the “norm.”” Then in his follow up post, he adds fuel to the fire with ” I think being well groomed and more personable then the average guy is probably my tell”. What ever happened to researching the company and dressing like the people that work there. That shows you fit in with the company. Dress nicer than the guy interviewing you, you make them feel uncomfortable and that means they find you less likable. Then he says that if you are not gay in Idaho, you have no clue how he feels. BS. He equates not hiring him to a bigotry against gays, there is no in between. I know that 22 yr olds are typically self confident, but this just signals an attitude problem to me. Suddenly, because he is gay, nobody can say he is not a perfect fit, even if he is not. Because if they do not see him as the best choice, they must really be turning him down because they are bigots. Now as a grumpy old man, I do not take kindly to some guy giving me attitude and I would suspect, based on the snarkiness of alluding to no one being a better choice than him, his comments putting down other guys for what he considers poor grooming and the attitude that the average guy is not personable, I would wager that he had an attitude when he was being interviewed, some employee saw him rolling his eyes over something that one of the guys was wearing, or hey maybe it might be his facebook:favorite quote on “f….Y…”, saying in a status update that he does not give a f… about something, telling everyone he loves him some wine, etc. Gee, that screams well groomed to me! Oh, and the post on January 26th at 2:26 PM?!?!?! Do you really think talking trash on facebook about companies that that turn you down is a good career move?

        This is a guy who is not actively trying to date a company, this is a guy who is trying to hook up for a one night stand! There is no attempt to filter any of the unseemly things in his life to make him attractive to an employer. Just from a 5 minute read of his facebook page, I know that he has foul language and IMHO a dubious choice in Music, Movies and TV shows. I mean really a south park character for your picture. Why not just choose Beavis and Butthead.

  10. Sergey Gorbatov

    Nathan,

    I would be thinking how to turn your minority status into a strength. There are many companies who have LGBT policies and actually looking forward to diversity their workforce. Using one of the specialized career websites might be a good idea too (e.g. http://lgbtcareerlink.com/). I absolutely agree with what has been said before: most hiring decisions are made on the basis of functional or leadership competences. While there are, surely, bigoted managers who would turn your down just because you are gay, there are many who would not.

    Good luck!

  11. Jamie

    I agree with those who said it is probably just the economy right now, which sucks…and as Alison pointed out, so flooded that being 22 and having less time in the work force is probably a bigger factor.

    I know there are bigots of every stripe out there – but people of every ilk are having a tough time landing work.

    The bigots that are out there need to knock it off right now – either choose to live in this century with the rest of us or quit your job today to open it up for someone capable of making a rational decision.

    Except those who are bigoted against lazy slackers – that’s a bias I wish were far more prevalent.

  12. Anonymous

    As someone who has worked in HR, I can tell you that even though finding employment is a priority on your mind, selecting a candidate is only one of many issues that an organization is dealing with.

  13. Jamie

    I had another thought, which may or may not apply. 80 resumes is a lot – so I would make sure your job search is targeted appropriately. Also that your resume and cover letters are specifically targeted to the individual jobs.

    When I was last on the market it was just at the front end of the economic spiral and after a couple of weeks of no luck I started to panic and started to apply for jobs which were increasingly under the level at which I’d been working. I figured if I could get in somewhere at entry level I could move up.

    Big mistake, I had even less luck – apparently no one wants to hire an IT to be a file clerk. I guess they all saw through my clever ruse of getting in by any means and then planning on moving up.

    Once I started applying for jobs I really wanted, even if I didn’t exactly meet the stated criteria, my responses increased 100 fold. Now that I have been reading AAM, I bet it was because my cover letters were much better when I was actually excited about an opportunity. Had I discovered this blog then I could have saved myself a lot of frustration during that job search – so you’ve got a leg up on a lot of people since you have access to all this awesome advice.

    Good luck – I hope you find something great.

  14. Jojo

    Well, the current job market does make you paranoid. A year ago, I thought my former employer was sabotaging me, which turned out that wasn’t the case. I know this because when I got my current job, they had to run a background check that included contacting that employer and there was no hassle.
    In my ongoing job search now, every now and then I feel that the fact I’m not originally from the US and English is my second language could put me at the disadvantage.
    But like AAM said there are just too many great candidates out there that we jobsearchers competing with.

    1. bob

      If English is your second language you’re doing a fine job of it. You write better than a lot of people out there who are native English speakers.

  15. Mike C.

    AAM –

    I certainly don’t doubt that many out there are mistaking suspicions of discrimination for the worst job market in generations. However, outside of some cartoonishly evil hiring manager throwing away every resume with a female’s name attached, I really have no idea what discriminatory hiring would actually look like. I don’t think I’m alone here.

    If I see that only young women are hired as administrative assistants, is that a discriminatory practice or just dumb luck? If the country of origin of an entire department matches, is that a bad sign? What about if every vice president is male? There’s a diner I go to where every one of the dozen hosts are female, and the job posting for help specifically asks for hostesses, is this discriminatory? How do you deal with confirmation bias and small sample sizes?

    If you feel comfortable in your knowledge, would you mind addressing this topic? Maybe show examples that are and are not discriminatory (and the inevitable gray area) and where to go if people see hard signs of such practices?

    It’s a tall order and I totally understand if you’re not comfortable addressing it, but discriminatory hiring hurts everyone and it appears to me that many don’t have a good understanding about what it actually is and is not.

    Just a thought! :)

  16. Nathan

    Whoa, let me start by saying I never stated I was the best candidate, I go by what the interviewer’s have said, that I was well experienced etc and saying I’m well groomed doesn’t mean I’m calling everyone else trashy…I was simply saying that it’s probably an indicator of my sexuality. I didn’t say everyone hates me I said sometimes I get the feeling that sexual orientation is a contributing factor in a job hunt. I could go on. As far as my Facebook page, I’m a young adult I listen to rap music and curse and drink sometimes that doesn’t mean I’m a bad employee or have an attitude because I’m outspoken the one place where I think I’m allowed. The gentleman with the comment “I would wager that he had an attitude when he was being interviewed, some employee saw him rolling his eyes over something that one of the guys was wearing” only backs me up that hate is alive and well. I would never give an interviewer any kind of negative attitude especially being so desperate for an income and you’ve already stereotyped me saying I didn’t get hired because I probably rolled my eyes at something a guy was wearing… I’m at a loss for words this is what this question was all about people. He assumes because I’m gay that I’m walking around queening it up making faces at people? That’s exactly why I have this feeling in the first place. I have to wonder sometimes, is this guy not going to hire me because he thinks I’m this way or that way because of my sexuality?

    I’m not going to attribute every failed job prospect to a bigot, I just wanted AAM’s opinion and it was a great one. Do I think it’s harder for a gay person to get a job no matter how bad the job market is? Yes. Can’t let it stop me from trying though.
    Thanks!

    1. Anonymous

      Nathan,

      I assumed nothing. I have seen straight people roll their eyes about people. I have seen gay people roll their eyes about people. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation and everything to do with respect of others. That you decide it is anti gay just proves your hate of heterosexuals. You think we are all looking for things to hate on you about. But guess what, I really do not care about your orientation. I know that is a shocker that people may actually look at people on things other than surface things. Just like I really do not care about your hairstyle or how many piercings you have. I do care that I see on your page where you bashed a company as being anti gay because they did not choose you. As an employer, I would be thinking “This guy would do the same to me if I did not choose him after interviewing him. Not worth the hassle”. As for your fantasy world that Facebook is someplace you can post whatever you want and it not effect your job search, you are terribly naive. Anything you write on the internet, think how it will look to your employer or prospective employer. As an employer, I do not want someone that curses like a sailor, it is not an image that I cultivate for my company. I do not want an employee who I have to wonder if they are going to come in hung over, that just makes more hassles as far as Quality Control for me.

      Oh, and since I have hired and worked with gay people before, I also call BS on it being harder for them to get a job. That is totally irrelevant in my line of work. We just want hard workers who will represent the company well. That means what you do on your time better not make my company look bad.

  17. Nick Barron

    As a gay man in a big city myself, I find that, if anything, being gay puts me at an advantage. I don’t bring it up in interviews or anything like that, but I feel like most managers I’ve had, once I’m on the job, like me a little more and treat me a little better than if I were a heterosexual male. It could be because most of my managers have been women.

    Plus, as a gay man, I live in the city and don’t have kids. Meaning I am not worn out or tired by a commute, don’t have to leave at a certain time to go pick up the kids, and can give my job all the attention and “umph” it deserves. Unfortunately for many of my parented/married/suburban colleagues, this is not the case.

  18. Ann

    Hi Nathan,

    Hang in there! I’m a lesbian, and I feel like it’s helped my career. I think queerness is actually an advantage in some companies and or fields. Not that companies will explicitly say, “Homosexuality a plus,” in their job descriptions or anything like that. A lot of communication and networking happens informally, and if an organization employs a lot of gays, tend to cluster together.

    I have experienced subtle homophobia while applying for jobs, so if you’re feeling that way I wouldn’t doubt your perceptions. If a company doesn’t want to hire me based on my sexual orientation, I’d probably be miserable there anyway, so they’re doing me a favor by rejecting me.

    The job market is pretty bad right now, like AAM said, especially if you just moved to a big city. I don’t think it’s you. I know repeated rejections are discouraging, but if you persevere long enough, you’ll eventually find a position.

  19. Liz

    The hostile, impatient, and disrespectful tone of some of the comments on here makes me think that being gay can make you a target for assholes.

    So maybe people should think about the message they’re REALLY sending before they post a rant about how poor treatment couldn’t POSSIBLY be related to unacknowledged prejudice.

    I think this guy’s situation is due to the market, too. But I wasn’t motivated to call him names or at all upset by his question. It’s a fair question, given the reality of abuse many gay teens face in certain areas of our society. And NOTHING in the rant-and-raver’s comments made me think that this kid was wrong about the challenges he faces every day.

  20. Anne

    I know I’m late to join this discussion, but just something I’d like to add/ask…

    I doubt that the OP is being discriminated against, because again, the job market sucks right now. But there are ways that one can reveal their sexual orientation OR political views regarding sexual orientation on a resume, and I wonder if (just in general) it’s a good or bad idea. I’m not talking about typing “I’M GAY!” at the top – so I’ll use my example – I was an LGBT studies minor in college. Even though I’m not gay myself, LGBT rights issues are important to me, and I wanted to learn more in college. And I’ll be honest…for some jobs, I left this off my resume, for fear of discrimination. Now, as AAM has pointed out in other posts, why would I want a bigot to hire me anyway? But I guess in my desperation with this bad job market, I played it ‘safe.’ Now, I’m a little embarrassed about leaving it off, actually.

    I don’t mean to distract from the overall topic, but if anyone has any thoughts about subtly revealing information like this, I’d be curious to know.

  21. EngineerGirl

    Hi Nathan,
    I looked at your Facebook profile. Good news – I don’t believe you are having problems in the job market because you are gay. Bad news – your Facebook profile makes you come off as a flaming jerk and I’m surprized you had ANY interviews. So lets fix this thing!

    Here is what I’m seeing. Please remember that I can only judge you by your posts. And I want to help you, so I’m giving you fairly blunt assessments. You need to hear the truth.

    * Use of profanity on your page. There is a huge difference between a muttered word said in frustration Vs blatant boastful postings of the F-word. This speaks to me of bad judgement. If you use enough potty words at work it can actually create a hostile working environment for the others on my team. I expect people to talk out (work out) their issues, and cursing as a main response shows me that you’re not very good at conflict resolution. In my company cursing like that would get you fired.
    * Listing partying and Guitar Hero as favorite activities. I wouldn’t expect that to be your main activity. If it is, I am concerned about you showing up to work on time (or hungover). It also speaks to me of immaturity. Thirteen year olds make partying and Guitar Hero their main activities. Adults do not. The astronomy and drawing are totally cool though.
    * Dissing companies that won’t hire you. This is a respect issue and a maturity issue. You may not like it, but throwing a public temper tantrum about it is not the correct response. I would be really worried about seeing my company (or me) dissed in a public forum. Part of being employed means creating a good image for the company. Your posts don’t do that, and makes me hesitant to hire you. And it also makes me wonder – are you going to throw a hissy fit at work the first time I tell you to do something that you don’t like?
    * Making a post that companies would prefer a straight man with no qualifications Vs a gay man with qualifications. I hope you don’t mean that, because that is the statement of someone with a VICTIM complex. I’ve worked with them. It’s always someone else’s fault. They never take responsibility for themselves. And because they are a VICTIM they expect others to fix the problem. Not on my team! I’m saying this to you as the first woman engineer (ever) in my department. Life ain’t fair. Make compensation for it by working harder than others, and embarass them into giving you a chance.

    In short Nathan, your posts have made you as someone undesireable in an employers eyes. Please, make your Facebook profile totally private! In time, it will go away, and your chances will improve. Best wishes with the job search. Really!

    1. Ask a Manager

      I just took a look at the Facebook profile for the first time, and I’m going to agree with EngineerGirl here. She’s giving you good advice. At a minimum, make your profile private! I wouldn’t be at all surprised if employers seeing the issues she cited with your profile is what’s causing you problems. Privacy settings are your friend here.

    2. Anonymous

      That also includes photos! Photos can be an enemy and you won’t even know it. Lock them up to the people you only want to see them or else don’t post them at all – especially if they show the partying. Sometimes those privacy settings are within the album itself and not about your account.

      And you might want to get rid of the formspring. You don’t need a friend asking an inappropriate question. In reality, your friends should know you and know how to address certain questions to you.

      Listen, we are trying to help you. Somethings, on both sides of the conversation, have been said in an ill-mannered way. While you have a legitimate question, I think you need to give people a little bit more benefit of the doubt. Yes, there are bigots out there who are very “homophobic.” However, you need to go about your job search with a clear head and not personalize your rejections as an attack on your sexuality. Unless you send a feedback request to the employer, you most likely will never know why you were turned down for the job. So why make it personal in that manner? Where is it going to get you except for being upset? You can’t prove it.

      Maybe someone was better than you. And who knows…maybe another gay man beat you out for the job? Ever think of that?

  22. Anonymous

    One other thing for the OP – you might want to create an email account that’s professional sounding. Your gmail is borderline fun vs. professional. Create another using your name to use solely for your applications and keep the other for your friends, family, etc.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Nick, can I ask you to remove his name from your post? He wrote to me anonymously, and while it’s true that he posted his Facebook profile here, he hasn’t consented to having his name used publicly, let alone in a post that will show up in Google search results for his name. I would rather people feel they can come here for help without worrying it could result in something like that.

    2. Chopped Liver

      What the heck am I? I wrote most of those issues back on Feb 18th at 6:36 PM.

      Seriously though, I think that way too many people think that only the time they are “interviewing” counts. And any stuff that is posted online is somehow off limits. That is just stupid.

      1. EngineerGirl

        Actually, your comments were what made me look at his FB profile. I just may have called these issues out more specifically.

      2. Anonymous

        And I think he somehow heard the comments because certain things have been changed, such as removing his favorite quotation.

        However, while I see your points and you are entitled to your opinions, some of them were a little bit unnecessary, such as accosting him about his choice of “dubious” music, movies, television shows, and profile pictures. In actuality, if he kept most of his information private and used a picture that wasn’t of him, his profile might not be recognizable to an employer. (By the way, I’m sure you watch a program or two others would sneer at due to their own disliking.)

          1. Anonymous

            So you’re protecting yourself and others from people just like yourself – those who judge on trivial items like TV and movies. Ok.

  23. Liz T

    I’d just like to add that while there’s a lot of homophobia out there, there’s also a lot of plain-old heterocentrism. Meaning, a lot of people just assume everyone they meet is straight, and don’t think to turn on their gaydar at all. You say yourself that you don’t *overtly* seem gay, and I think the people out there going, “This person is well-dressed, therefore he’s gay” are the minority.

  24. Matt

    Ha. What a joke! A depressed job market? Come on. I have a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice, perfect background, and served in the United States Military. I have applied to over 140 law enforcement related jobs. I have been emailed back that I do not qualify. Ha! To be a law enforcement officer you need a GED or High School Diploma. I run over 40 miles per week (4 times 10 miles nonstop). I have much experience, great references, and work history. I have actually made the top 5 score in our region for State Trooper. I was told both in the interview (along with several other interviews for similar positions) I will not likely be hired because of my sexuality. So, as for your original posting, I am sorry to hear about what you are going through. I am going through a very similar motion. I am a veteran, qualified, professional, astute candidate for many positions I apply for. However, there still remains bigotry in the United States. (Side note- my applications range from sevral states across the southeast) So, ask a Manager does not know what he or she is talking about. Especially, if him or her has not been in this situation, related to, or homosexual his or her self. I wish all homosexuals to continue fighting this bigotry and take your qualified services elsewhere!

  25. luke

    My Goodness, I swear people get on hear to fill in the day and start something, the poor guy was asking for positive feed back on how he was feeling and it turns into this debate. I would like to know how some people even come across some of these forums if the question doesn’t relate to them in some way.

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